Children’s Society: Asylum seekers face destitution

Increasing numbers of asylum-seeking and refugee children in England are growing up in destitution, a Children’s Society report warned today.

Children are living without food, heating or toys, while some mothers are being forced to prostitute themselves to survive, the study of 11 destitute families and two unaccompanied young people in the West Midlands found. Several of the families had been destitute for months and one had been without financial support for four years. Two children had been conceived as a result of sexual exploitation and in one case a destitute mother was given a £3,000 bill for maternity care.

No access to work or benefits

Most families experiencing destitution had been refused asylum and were not allowed to work or claim benefits. Support for failed asylum seekers unable to return home immediately – known as Section 4 “hard case” support – was inadequate. Families under the scheme are typically placed in a hostel and given £67 in vouchers every two weeks. The study found accommodation was “inadequate” and the vouchers did not cover essentials for babies.

Families also said it was hard to get help from local authority children’s services because they could not prove they were eligible for help even when they were, and found it hard to advocate for themselves.
There are at least 285,000 refused asylum seekers still in the UK who are destitute, according to official figures.

Key recommendations

● Give asylum-seeking families the right to work and full access to healthcare.
● Raise the level of Section 4 support level and provide through cash not vouchers.
● Provide all asylum support at the same level as income support, not at 70% as at present.
● Abolish Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, under which all support is removed from failed asylum seekers.
● Ensure local safeguarding children board’s consider asylum seeking children as part of their remit.

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